November 14, 2020

Why is 11am + 1 hour == 12:00pm?

I can never remember if noon is 12pm or 12am. I’ve always ascribed this to having grown up in Finland, where we use 24-hour clock. But it’s actually not that unreasonable to be confused, as this brilliant StackExchange answer explains.

I came across this while re-reading Zach Holman’s UTC is enough for everyone, right?.


January 13, 2020

September 24, 2019

  • pareidolianoun the tendency to interpret vague stimuli as something familiar.

February 28, 2019

January 14, 2019

June 23, 2018

October 16, 2017

June 16, 2017

March 28, 2017

March 1, 2017

January 15, 2017

January 7, 2017

  • Stephen Wolfram: Quick, How Might the Alien Spacecraft Work?A fascinating and long blog entry on Wolfram’s work consulting on physics and aliens for the movie Arrival. Physics, linguistics, xenoethnography, comparing developing software to making movies, oh my!

June 1, 2016

Law of triviality

Parkinson’s law of triviality comes into play when a team spends more time discussing easy problems rather than the more difficult — and more important — ones. Also called bikeshedding.


March 15, 2016

British style guides

Style guides from BBC News, The Guardian and Observer and The Economist. Guardian also tweets about its style.


August 4, 2015

The Conversation

I watched The Conversation on Saturday. Hat tip to @higgis for the recommendation: it’s a great movie. One thing that struck me is that it included a lot of dialog that was either abortive or just hard to work out the meaning of. I’m not sure if this was just to make it more realistic (our everyday spoken language is riddled with utterances that “change directions” mid-sentence) or if the phrases and comments would have made more sense to contemporary audiences.


July 22, 2015

March 19, 2015

  • recherchéadj.
    1. exquisite, choice; exotic, rare
    2. excessively refined, affected; pretentious, overblown

November 13, 2014

September 22, 2014

August 26, 2014

June 27, 2014

June 25, 2014

  • Europanto. A made-up “language” consisting of a fluid vocabulary mixing words from European languages.

June 18, 2014

June 13, 2014

May 19, 2014

  • Thinking in a foreign language could sway your moral judgments. “Two years ago, researchers led by Keysar found that people thinking in a second language tended to be more even-headed about risk-taking. A certain lack of fluency seemed to encourage deliberation, dampening emotional reactions to the idea of loss.”

April 23, 2014

  • Feminism 101. Perspectives, debates, topics, words, language... It’s all there and thensome.

April 16, 2014

April 9, 2014

March 5, 2014

February 24, 2014

  • "Hemingway" on Hemingway. A funny takedown of the Hemingway app, which tries -- in a rather simplistic way -- to help you make your writing clear and understandable.

December 10, 2013

October 17, 2013

  • quotidian adj.
    1. of or occurring every day; daily
    2. ordinary or everyday; mundane

July 24, 2013

  • Daxtra Technologies. Makers of automated resume/CV parsing and extraction. Their "what is it" page offers a surprisingly comprehensive overview of the state of CV parsing.

May 15, 2013

February 20, 2013

May 25, 2011

English as spoken by Finns

As exemplified by former prime ministers Paasikivi (1952), Jäätteenmäki (2003), and Vanhanen (circa 2006). And of course Mika Häkkinen is a classic on this front, not only for his accent but also for his demeanor.


May 11, 2011

March 8, 2011

  • Patricia Kuhl’s TED talk, the linguistic genius of babies. Interesting takeaway: infants have a sweet spot at six to eights months old in which they’re primed to the sounds of their mother tongue. This also works with foreign languages, but only when spoken by a person who’s present, not when exposed via audio or video.

January 25, 2011

  • threnody n.
    • A poem or song of mourning or lamentation

January 19, 2011

September 17, 2010

  • omphaloskepsis n.
    • The contemplation of of one’s navel

July 7, 2010

  • sibilant
    • adj. Of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound like that of (s) or (sh): the sibilant consonants; a sibilant bird call.
    • n. A sibilant speech sound, such as English (s), (sh), (z), or (zh).

February 9, 2010

  • obstreperous adj.
    1. Noisily and stubbornly defiant.
    2. Aggressively boisterous.
    (As a side note: There must be a black metal band called Obstreperous.)

January 5, 2010

November 9, 2009

  • etiolate,
    1. Botany. To cause (a plant) to develop without chlorophyll by preventing exposure to sunlight.
      1. To cause to appear pale and sickly: a face that was etiolated from years in prison.
      2. To make weak by stunting the growth or development of.